Singapore continued to make progress in 2013.
We have set new directions for Singapore, and are working steadily towards them. Change can be unsettling, and we have encountered a few rough spots this year. As a society, we were tested, but we came through together. As we work through the transition, we can look forward to a better future for all.
Our economy has done well. It grew by 3.7 per cent in 2013 - better than initially expected. Median salaries increased by 3.9 per cent in real terms, and pay for the lower-income went up too. This means better jobs and new opportunities for workers. It also means that we can do more to make ours a gracious city for all. Next year we expect to grow by 2 to 4 per cent.
In other fields too, our people are scaling many peaks of excellence. Cultural works like Ilo Ilo are winning international awards. Team Singapore athletes did well at the SEA Games, winning medals in a wider range of sports and inspiring Singaporeans. In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), our students ranked among the top three countries worldwide for reading, mathematics and science.
A new direction
IN THE National Day Rally, we set a new direction for Singapore. The Government and community will give more support to individuals. We aim to keep our society open and mobile, especially through education, so that anyone can rise regardless of family background. We will strengthen social safety nets to ensure that anyone can bounce back from difficulty, and to give Singaporeans, especially our seniors, greater peace of mind on their health-care costs. We will share the fruits of progress more widely, including through home ownership schemes and support for low-wage workers.
We are making steady progress. The first-timer queue for Housing Board flats has shortened, housing prices have stabilised and targeted subsidies have made homes more affordable. We are investing in quality pre- school education for all, and refining the Primary 1 registration and PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) scoring systems. Our schools are stressing values and character education. Equally, we are broadening definitions of success as we seek to make every school a good school.
MediShield Life will provide all Singaporeans, including those with pre-existing illnesses, better lifelong protection against high medical bills. We are also working out the Pioneer Generation Package to honour the special generation who built today's Singapore. We will announce details soon.